Camden native Ben Fowlie is the man behind the Camden International Film Festival, the successful and growing four-day documentary film event. One way in which the festival has grown is by offering additional programming — first with the Points North Documentary Forum, and now with CIFF’s first-ever touring program. The Aging in Maine Screening Tour came out of the engagement summit held at the 2013 festival, which talked about the issues facing Maine’s aging population. From now until July, 11 locations from Orono to Portland will host a number of films that deal head-on with those issues. The films are selected by CIFF staff and by Working Films, an organization that links social issues to documentary film. A number of Maine nonprofits partnered with CIFF, including the University of Maine Center on Aging and several hospitals and agencies on aging.
The first screening event is set for 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 18 in the D.P. Corbett Building on the UMaine campus in Orono, followed by 7 p.m. March 19 at the Strand Theatre in Rockland, 3:30 p.m. Saturday, March 22, at the Colonial Theatre in Belfast, 1 p.m. Sunday, March 23, at the Lincoln Theater in Damariscotta, and many more to follow through July. A full list of screenings can be found at the CIFF website, camdenfilmfest.org. Fowlie answered a few questions about the tour and the films set to be shown.
This touring program is a first for CIFF. How did it come about?
Exploring ways in which filmmakers can engage more thoughtfully and effectively with audiences has always been at the forefront of our our work [at the festival]. We began to look for opportunities and ways to explore how we as an organization could not only bring more documentary films to Maine communities, but also how to use those films to develop community-based social action campaigns.
During the 2013 festival, 14 organizations convened to identify needs facing aging communities and the organizations that support them, as well as attend workshops on how to utilize the power of nonfiction storytelling to advance their advocacy goals. What came out of that summit is this tour.
Why this topic? What can a format like this can lend to the overall discussion going on in the state about our aging population?
We knew we needed to focus on an issue that was particularly important to Maine audiences. We also knew we needed to find an issue that had a robust structure of nonprofits and organizations that we could partner with. This entire program hinges on our ability to make connections and enhance the work that our partner organizations are already doing.
We’ve been extremely impressed with the support we’ve received from the nonprofit community. It’s been a wonderful opportunity to highlight the incredible work being done every day across Maine.
It also came down to the films that happened to be out there. I connected very emotionally to a number of films on hospice care and Alzheimer’s. The quality of the work and the power of the message seemed to lend itself so perfectly to the Engagement Summit program that we decided aging would be where we would focus our attention first.
How is this engaging other demographics besides older people?
One of the most important aspects of this program is that the films appeal to a wide demographic base. For the most part, the films are created by younger filmmakers exploring these issues themselves. They are personal, emotional, but they are also cinematic — I think that’s something all audiences can engage with.
CIFF has built a reputation on creating unique ways to experience cutting-edge, cinematically driven documentary films. Our hope is that we can carry that energy around with us to each of these events. [We hope to create] an environment where we can engage communities in a thoughtful, inter-generational dialogue around the issues of aging and dementia-related illness. The program is most successful if we can bring families and friends of all ages together to communicate.
Finally, tell us briefly about each of the films set to be shown.
We have two award-winning films from last year’s fest, “The Genius of Marian” and “Last Dreams. “Marian” is our cornerstone film, and will be screened at most of our events. It is a visually rich, emotionally complex story about one family’s struggle to come to terms with the changes Alzheimer’s brings. “Last Dreams” is a beautiful and powerful film that follows three women during their last month of life.
We also have the Oscar short-listed “First Cousin Once Removed,” by filmmaker Alan Berliner. It paints a deeply personal portrait of acclaimed poet Edwin Honig as journeys through the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease and memory loss.
Finally, we’ll screen a collection of short films we’re calling “Golden Shorts.” The shorts program is incredibly fun, and focuses on a number of key aging issues like caretaking, the loss of one’s ability to drive and the importance of staying active.